September 27th, 2020: Homily – 26th Sunday in Ordinary time

This Sunday, the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time will give way to the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul, Patron of the Diocese of Richmond, as our diocesan church continues its jubilee, celebrating 200 years of ministry and mission. Readings have been chosen to give way to the event of our celebration of Bicentennial. This morning/yesterday in the parish of St. Andrew in Roanoke, Bishop Nestout presided over the last of the series of Regional Bicentennial Mass to give honorto ourdiocesan patron saint,St. Vincent De Paul(24 April 1581 –27 September 1660).This time despite the pandemic crisis we are still able to expressour gratitudeto God for the abundant blessings we received and renew our commitment and mission, by keeping our faith solid and stronger.

Back to our history, we see how the first catholic community of the diocese struggle in their faith,seeking Christ in the most vulnerable of society. Missionaries who planted the seeds of christian faith work hard in the nameof evangelization. We heardthe gospel speak of the compassion of Jesus, “move with pity” he looked at the people like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus challenged us to proclaim the kingdom of God in our daily life and become laborers and active workers in the vineyard of the Lord.

How can we relate our christianlife to the life and mission of St. Vincent as our patron saint?

In one of his exhortations, Pope Francis invites us to be a poor church for the poor, to build community, to become a church onthe margins. To do this, we need help from the saints, both as intercessors and as examples. St. Vincent de Paul is our model.

St. Vincent, a French priest who dedicated himself to serving the poor. Renowned for his compassion, humility, and generosity and known as the “Great Apostle of Charity,” that is why he was named as the “patron saint of all charities”.

Vincent’s life was full of dramatic moments. At 24 years old, Vincent was taken captive by Barbary pirates and spent two years in bondage as a slave. As a young priest, rising quickly among the ranks of the clergy, he abandoned the path for advancement when he experienced a call to serve the poor, a call that changed his life.

A tireless apostle, St. Vincent de Paul founded an order of priests, the Congregation of the Missions, to work with peasants in villages, now called the Vincentians. His priests traveled throughout France and the rest of Europe and throughout the world, giving missions to encourage Catholics to witness to their faith through acts of charityand to contribute financially to the work of the missions.

Vincent de Paul died in 1660, and was canonized by Pope Clement XII in 1737. Pope Leo XIII proclaimed him patron of all charitable works within the Catholic world. Until now, his heart remains incorrupt.

Vincent also assisted Saint Louise de Marillac in founding the Daughters of Charity, the first women’s congregation to live out their vocation outside of the convent and among the sick and needy of the world. His example is imitated by many religious communities and its many councils in parishes around the world and in numerous thrift stores that bear his name.

The spirituality of St. Vincent De Paul concretely connects faith to action, and I qoute:

So then, if there are any among us who think that they are in theCongregation of the Mission to preach the Gospel to the poor but not tocomfort them, to supply their spiritual but not their temporal wants, I reply thatwe ought to assist them and have them assisted in every way, by ourselvesand by others, if we wish to hear those consoling words of the SovereignJudge of the living and the dead: ‘Come, beloved of my Father, possess theKingdom that has been prepared for you; because I was hungry and you gaveme to eat; I was naked and you clothed me; sick and you visited me.’ To dothis is to preach the Gospel by words and by works, it is to do so mostperfectly and it is also what Our Lord did and what those who represent Himon earth, in office and in character, such as priests, should do.

–St. Vincent dePaul (Conferences to the CM’s, Conference 195, p. 608.)

In every nation, city, village, and in each generation we find the needy, in particular, the uneducated, the sick, those who are alone, outcasts, and all those poor in our society.” St. Vincent de Paul and his dedicated companions brought material comfortto the poor and gave them a spiritual education and direction that strengthened them and enabled them to live with hope, and with an active faith.

Vincent treated the poor as friends and family. Heserved them as a privilege; he was serving Christ in hisneighbor. He brought the Presence of Christ to them with charity that was genuine, gentle, and joyful. If only we could look upon the needy with the same love and compassion, how the world would begin to change.This sharing in God’s life, could transform us into the Christ-like persons we are meant to be.

Once again, Pope Francis saidin the event of the canonization of St. Teresa of Calcutta, “The world stands in need of concrete signs of solidarity, especially as it is faced with the temptation to indifference.” The saints for garment justice whom we highlight, including St. Vincent De Paul, are those “concrete signs of solidarity.” They give witness to paths that overcome “the temptation to indifference.”

May St. Vincent bless us in Christ today as we seek to follow his good example in living a Catholic Christian life in challenging times. May we be creative, as he was, in creating solutions to seemingly impossible problems or bringing changes to society.

–Father Bernie

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